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- Cecilia vol. 2 - 5/63 -
"Been looking about for you!" continued Briggs, nodding sagaciously; "believe I've found one will do. Guess what I mean;--£100,0000--hay?-- what say to that? any thing better at the west end of the town?"
"£100,000!" cried Morrice, "and pray, Sir, who may this be?"
"Not you, Mr jackanapes! sure of that. A'n't quite positive he'll have you, neither. Think he will, though."
"Pray; Sir, what age is he?" cried the never daunted Morrice.
"Why about--let's see--don't know, never heard,--what signifies?"
"But, Sir, he's an old man, I suppose, by being so rich?"
"Old? no, no such thing; about my own standing."
"What, Sir, and do you propose him for an husband to Miss Beverley?"
"Why not? know ever a one warmer? think Master Harrel will get her a better? or t'other old Don, in the grand square?"
"If you please, Sir," cried Cecilia hastily, "we will talk of this matter another time."
"No, pray," cried young Delvile, who could not forbear laughing, "let it be discussed now."
"Hate 'em," continued Mr Briggs, "hate 'em both! one spending more than he's worth, cheated and over-reached by fools, running into gaol to please a parcel of knaves; t'other counting nothing but uncles and grandfathers, dealing out fine names instead of cash, casting up more cousins than guineas--"
Again Cecilia endeavoured to silence him, but, only chucking her under the chin, he went on, "Ay, ay, my little duck, never mind 'em; one of 'em i'n't worth a penny, and t'other has nothing in his pockets but lists of the defunct. What good will come of that? would not give twopence a dozen for 'em! A poor set of grandees, with nothing but a tie-wig for their portions!"
Cecilia, unable to bear this harangue in the presence of young Delvile, who, however, laughed it off with a very good grace, arose with an intention to retreat, which being perceived by Sir Robert Floyer, who had attended to this dialogue with haughty contempt, he came forward, and said, "now then, madam, may I have the honour of your hand?"
"No, Sir," answered Cecilia, "I am engaged."
"Engaged again?" cried he, with the air of a man who thought himself much injured.
"Glad of it, glad of it!" said Mr Briggs; "served very right! have nothing to say to him, my chick!"
"Why not, Sir?" cried Sir Robert, with an imperious look.
"Sha'n't have her, sha'n't have her! can tell you that; won't consent; know you of old." "And what do you know of me, pray Sir?"
"No good, no good; nothing to say to you; found fault with my nose! ha'n't forgot it."
At this moment Mr Marriot came to claim his partner, who, very willing to quit this scene of wrangling and vulgarity, immediately attended him. Miss Larolles, again flying up to her, said "O my dear, we are all expiring to know who that creature is! I never saw such a horrid fright in my life!"
Cecilia was beginning to satisfy her, but some more young ladies coming up to join in the request, she endeavoured to pass on; "O but," cried Miss Larolles, detaining her, "do pray stop, for I've something to tell you that's so monstrous you've no idea. Do you know Mr Meadows has not danced at all! and he's been standing with Mr Sawyer, and looking on all the time, and whispering and laughing so you've no notion. However, I assure you, I'm excessive glad he did not ask me, for all I have been sitting still all this time, for I had a great deal rather sit still, I assure you: only I'm sorry I put on this dress, for any thing would have done just to look on in that stupid manner."
Here Mr Meadows sauntered towards them; and all the young ladies began playing with their fans, and turning their heads another way, to disguise the expectations his approach awakened; and Miss Larolles, in a hasty whisper to Cecilia, cried, "Pray don't take any notice of what I said, for if he should happen to ask me, I can't well refuse him, you know, for if I do, he'll be so excessive affronted you can't think."
Mr Meadows then, mixing in the little group, began, with sundry grimaces, to exclaim "how intolerably hot it is! there's no such thing as breathing. How can anybody think of dancing! I am amazed Mr Harrel has not a ventilator in this room. Don't you think it would be a great improvement?"
This speech, though particularly addressed to no one, received immediately an assenting answer from all the young ladies.
Then, turning to Miss Larolles, "Don't you dance?" he said.
"Me?" cried she, embarrassed, "yes, I believe so,--really I don't know,--I a'n't quite determined."
"O, do dance!" cried he, stretching himself and yawning, "it always gives me spirits to see you."
Then, turning suddenly to Cecilia, without any previous ceremony of renewing his acquaintance, either by speaking or bowing, he abruptly said "Do you love dancing, ma'am?"
"Yes, Sir, extremely well."
"I'm very glad to hear it. You have one thing, then, to soften existence."
"Do you dislike it yourself?"
"What dancing? Oh dreadful! how it was ever adopted in a civilized country I cannot find out; 'tis certainly a Barbarian exercise, and of savage origin. Don't you think so, Miss Larolles?"
"Lord no," cried Miss Larolles, "I assure you I like it better than any thing; I know nothing so delightful, I declare I dare say I could not live without it; I should be so stupid you can't conceive."
"Why I remember," said Mr Marriot, "when Mr Meadows was always dancing himself. Have you forgot, Sir, when you used to wish the night would last for ever, that you might dance without ceasing?"
Mr Meadows, who was now intently surveying a painting that was over the chimney-piece, seemed of to hear this question, but presently called out "I am amazed Mr Harrel can suffer such a picture as this to be in his house. I hate a portrait, 'tis so wearisome looking at a thing that is doing nothing!"
"Do you like historical pictures, Sir, any better?"
"O no, I detest them! views of battles, murders, and death! Shocking! shocking!--I shrink from them with horror!"
"Perhaps you are fond of landscapes?"
"By no means! Green trees and fat cows! what do they tell one? I hate every thing that is insipid."
"Your toleration, then," said Cecilia, "will not be very extensive."
"No," said he, yawning, "one can tolerate nothing! one's patience is wholly exhausted by the total tediousness of every thing one sees, and every body one talks with. Don't you find it so, ma'am?" "_Sometimes_!" said Cecilia, rather archly.
"You are right, ma'am, extremely right; one does not know what in the world to do with one's self. At home, one is killed with meditation, abroad, one is overpowered by ceremony; no possibility of finding ease or comfort. You never go into public, I think, ma'am?"
"Why not to be much _marked_, I find!" said Cecilia, laughing.
"O, I beg your pardon! I believe I saw you one evening at Almack's: I really beg your pardon, but I had quite forgot it."
"Lord, Mr Meadows," said Miss Larolles, "don't you know you are meaning the Pantheon? only conceive how you forget things!"
"The Pantheon, was it? I never know one of those places from another. I heartily wish they were all abolished; I hate public places. 'Tis terrible to be under the same roof with a set of people who would care nothing if they saw one expiring!"
"You are, at least, then, fond of the society of your friends?"
"O no! to be worn out by seeing always the same faces!--one is sick to death of friends; nothing makes one so melancholy."
Cecilia now went to join the dancers, and Mr Meadows, turning to Miss Larolles, said, "Pray don't let me keep you from dancing; I am afraid you'll lose your place."
"No," cried she, bridling, "I sha'n't dance at all."
"How cruel!" cried he, yawning, "when you know how it exhilarates me to see you! Don't you think this room is very close? I must go and try another atmosphere,--But I hope you will relent, and dance?"
And then, stretching his arms as if half asleep, he sauntered into the next room, where he flung himself upon a sofa till the ball was over.
The new partner of Cecilia, who was a wealthy, but very simple young man, used his utmost efforts to entertain and oblige her, and, flattered by the warmth of his own desire, he fancied that he succeeded; though, in a state of such suspence and anxiety, a man of brighter talents had failed.
At the end of the two dances, Lord Ernolf again attempted to engage her for his son, but she now excused herself from dancing any more, and sat quietly as a spectatress till the rest of the company gave over. Mr Marriot, however, would not quit her, and she was compelled
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